Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.
Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them.
Their adventures were shared with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Henri, Edgar Hewett and Charles Lummis, Chief Tawakwaptiwa of the Hopi, and Hostiin Klah of the Navajo. Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly, and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon, and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos.
Although their stories converge in the outback of the American Southwest, the saga of Ladies of the Canyons is also the tale of Boston’s Brahmins, the Greenwich Village avant-garde, the birth of American modern art, and Santa Fe’s art and literary colony.
Ladies of the Canyons is the story of New Women stepping boldly into the New World of inconspicuous success, ambitious failure, and the personal challenges experienced by women and men during the emergence of the Modern Age.
Lesley Poling-Kempes is the award winning author of fiction and nonfiction books about the American Southwest, including “Bone Horses” winner of the 2014 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction and the Tony Hillerman Award; “The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West,” winner of the Zia Award and recently optioned for a television series (Atalaya Productions, 2015); “Valley of Shining Stone: The Story of Abiquiu,” and “Ghost Ranch.” Her first novel “Canyon of Remembering” was a Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist. In September of 2015 “Ladies of the Canyon: A League of Extraordinary Women & Their Adventures in the American Southwest” was released by the University of Arizona Press. She lives in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
“Poling-Kempes has done an admirable job scouring archives for these women, who have been largely left out of the historical record of the West. It’s a kind of prequel to our common history of the Southwest, peopled by women with long skirts and cinched waists in the desert heat, riding cowboy style, trying to do right by the land they all loved.” Carolyn Kellogg , Los Angeles Times